teachable moments

oonaballoona wax fabric BHL charlotte skirt

I love it when I'm able to teach myself something, sans aid. Of course I understand the value of learning from someone with actual knowledge, but I had glorious great big gobs of fun knocking around in photoshop, finding out through trial and error how to blend a new layer under myself. I have given myself all of the gold stars.

oonaballoona wax fabric BHL charlotte skirt

Equal amounts of gold stars are ripe for the taking when I am presented an opportunity to bestow my Great And Powerful Wisdom upon others. In a quandary over what to sew, I turned from my stash to Ruggy. Babe, what should I do with this drapey silk cotton? Ruggy stood back and gave this serious question its due diligence. How about a African-y Wrap-py Dress.

oonaballoona wax fabric BHL charlotte skirt

Oh Ruggy, I began professorially, this is silk cotton. Do you mean wax print? THIS, I said, holding up a glorious birthday treat from my girl Latrice (you rock!), is wax print. And wax print is actually Dutch in origin, you see.

Oooooookay, look,  he said, with a roll of his eyes and a flash of his keyboard, just make something like this. At the speed of internet, a hundred googly-imaged cuties in all manner of technicolor popped up. The silk cotton was set aside for another day, and I was off to the races.

oonaballoona wax fabric BHL charlotte skirt

And an exhilarating race it was! WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! The vehicle: By Hand London's Charlotte, extended, and avec thigh high slash slit.  I couldn't worry about print placement, other than center front, not if I wanted the length. AND I DID SO WANT THE LENGTH. My Anna scraps came in to join the party.

oonaballoona wax fabric BHL charlotte skirt

Contrast facing on the triple topstitched slit, done on my beloved, holy cow I literally kiss her every day, Pfaff 1171. The guts are serged with my hated, holy cow I curse her every day, Elna. With each passing moment, I expect her to die trying to kill me.

oonaballoona wax fabric BHL charlotte skirt pfaff

Speaking of those scraps. Both of these wax print makes get a lot of attention. One gal spied me in my Anna and immediately turned misty eyed, a big grin breaking out on her face. That print! Is it from Ghana? 

Behold! A teachable moment! Professor Oona stepped up to the mic to school the young lass. Well, actually, I believe this print is from Holland, the label said Verified--

GHANA?! She broke in, loudly and with great hope. G-H-A-N-A? That is my home!

Nooooooo... I began, watching her face deflate, and yet, continuing my Dutch origins mini lecture. She said my dress was pretty, and walked away sadly, clearly homesick. HEY GUESS WHAT. Next time, I'm going to say yes. Not everything is a teachable moment. In fact, the entire time I was stitching this skirt, I was formulating a plan to find her again and lie straight to her face. MY FRIEND! Do you like my Ghana skirt? How long have you been away from home? How are things going here? Let's go get you an ice cream!

I mean let's face it. Everything came from somewhere. Origin of rock n' roll, anyone? Sometimes the facts take the joy out of it. Better to listen to the music.  

oonaballoona wax fabric BHL charlotte skirt

The happy, happy music.


but are you getting my afro in the shot?

There's a lotta talk going round the sewisphere about tips & tricks for taking photos. I've said it here and there in response to comments and other posts, but have never put it up on le blog... so here's my best tip for a great photo.

Bribe whoever is behind the camera to get on the dirty dirty New York ground and shoot up at you like you're seven feet tall.  Especially of you are of the five footish variety.  Which I am.  Suzanne tried it. I'd say she's a convert. (I'd also say she should watch her super cute cut-out back in her technicolor dress when I'm in the general vicinity.)

This shot was snapped moments before a man carrying several large camera bags passed us on the street. Nice backdrop, he said. Eyeing Ruggy's standing position, he offered: Get low on the ground and shoot up at her. The angle will give her more height. 

After. 'Fro included!

That was just about a year ago.  Since then, Ruggy made that advice law.  In fact, no amount of begging and pleading will get him up off the ground for a straight-on shot anymore. Truly. Apparently it takes away from his creative process... and who am I to take away FUN.

What baffles me is: why don't red carpet/paparazzi/fashion mag photographers consider this a golden rule? To wit, a shot of me and The Rugster at an event last summer...

Same dress. Less height. 

(Side note, as we walked down the block to the conveniently located shindig, an older gentleman saw us coming and started to full on holler. I'M SORRY BUT I GOT TA SAY Y'ALL HAVE FLAVA. FLA. VA! This dress has magical powers.)

Of course, it begs the question: why do we need an extra foot of height? What you really want to see are the seams and the pattern and the print and all that good stuff, right? Again. Because it's FUN. But, equally important, all of the hard work we put into a garment deserves a good shot. Angle notwithstanding, you don't need to go full on ground level, whether it's a quickie by the garage door with morning light before you head off to work, or going hog wild over the weekend with props and backdrops and the whole shebang-- try something different! It could be fun.


Friday Fat Quarter: Look Out Project Runway


The challengers are hellbent on proving me wrong. First, Devra's Unicorn playset. Then Amity's Zombified Peplum blouse. Now comes this stripey self-drafted number from mastermind Jennifer of Workroom Social, complete with a Project Runway recap of her work in the challenge.  She basically Tim Gunn'ed herself.

I think I need to go lie down.



oonaballoona oscar de la renta birthday dress

For my birthday suit this year, I wanted something insane.  AND I LIKES TO GET WHAT I WANTS.

Ruggy was informed mid-July that I didn't care what the venue was, I would be thrilled to eat a hog dog from a cart, so long as I was doing it in a simple yet extravagant girly frock. August's MSN allowance provided me the materials for my plans: Oscar de la Renta silk taffeta (all gone, sad face hey! it's back!), and magenta dotted organza (almost gone...and don’t be fooled by the picture, it’s magenta for sure!). But plans, as usual, changed once I stared the yardage in the face.

oonaballoona oscar de la renta birthday dress

And changed. And changed. I wanted a cap sleeve vintage silhouette with crinoline. I wanted a mermaid ball gown. At one point I thought I would make an actual three piece suit.  But after seeing the Charles James exhibit, curves called... although I was ready to start a good old fashioned slice 'n dice drape session, something made me stop. August is the craziest month in all of Kalkatroona (like 86 birthdays, for real, ancestors got tres happy round Thanksgiving), and my brain was too full!  I wanted to be told what to do.

oonaballoona oscar de la renta birthday dress

Cynthia Rowley 1802 gave me my manifetso for the skirt, and Simplicity 0320 was the plank I walked for the bodice. A TNT pattern, it was heavily modified to get the look I wanted at the shoulder and back, which was also inspired by a giant of fashion, Christian Dior. 

oonaballoona oscar de la renta birthday dress

Christian on top and Charles on the bottom! SMELL ME.

oonaballoona oscar de la renta birthday dress

oonaballoona oscar de la renta birthday dress

oonaballoona oscar de la renta birthday dress

But don't inhale too deeply. Yikes, some of those seams...one could almost say ham handedly modified.  I definitely manhandled the bodice!  Did I muslin? No. I used the “stitch, rip, repeat” method. You can see the silk was getting a little vexed with this decision on the front bodice. And either the dress is too tight in the back, or the just-off-the-shoulder-look meant I needed boning...

oonaballoona oscar de la renta birthday dress

It fits comfortably enough for an evening of pizza though, so I’m not complaining!

Yes, the venue was birthday pizza, in a magical back garden of a Greenwich Village joint, and I felt splendidly overdressed.  Ruggy, I soothed, I can always trim the magenta away if I want a less costume-y frock. 

But I literally cackle every time I look down at this combo, so I do believe they’ll be mates for some time.

oonaballoona oscar de la renta birthday dress

Have you ever heard taffeta move? Such a delicious rustle! It’s like a slightly hollered whisper, egging you on to shake and shimmy and sway…which we did, to some seriously stirring after-pizza blues.

No surprise, my guy treated me right. Mais, as a photographer, he is not so into the details, he’s a big picture kinda guy. But I do like his eye. Both of them, actually. So allow me to throw a few close ups into this picture heavy post, it is my birthday dress, after all...

This little bow is an extension of the shoulder hack-- fully lined and sussed out over a cocktail or two...

Three thousand inches of rolled, serged, topstitched edges, the topstitching done with a smile by my baller Pfaff, the serging done under threat of pain by the old Elna (which will only do wovens now). The dress is so insane, I didn't fret over the exposed serging. Having too much fun to fret.

This lining & invisible zip are actually neon coral pink in hue. My extremely old camera refuses to accept this fact.

oonaballoona oscar de la renta birthday dress

This one was a joy to make, and that’s exactly what I wanted for my birthday dress..FUN!  I find more and more that I truly only want to sew FUN things. And if wearing them out means going for pizza, hey, that only adds to the FUN.

Phew!  I can hear the sound of that taffetta right now, sweet music! What’s the last thing you sewed purely for fun?

this birthday dress was made using my monthly fabric "allowance" as part of the Mood Sewing Network. Thanks Mood!


oonapalooza winners!

Do you know how hard it was to choose from 70 oonapalooza makes? NOT HARD AT ALL! BECAUSE I SICCED MY FAMILY ON THE JUDGING, YO!

If that doesn't say brat, I don't know what does. And brat is synonymous with oonapalooza.

Furthering my spoiled ways, I asked some of my favorite people to supply some prizes! AND THEY SAID YES TOO!!! Do you think perhaps I should just ask whoever is behind the table at the next audition to never mind the actual booty shaking, just go ahead and hire me? And they'll say yes? It stands to reason, rule of three and all...

But for now let's focus on the six peeps that The Family found the most Kalkatroonaan. Let me say, I thought this would be a quick thing for them-- that their picks would just pop out, their eyes well trained to spot a technicolor relative in a room full of strangers, but no! To a person, they each spent several hours scouring blogs, instagram, flickr, and deliberating. They had the exact same problem I did: EVERYONE IS AWESOME. Thank you family. I owe you a great big pitcher of drinks.

Let's get on with it! The bombtastic Heather Lou of Closet Case Files has offered up her carnival ride of a pattern, the Bombshell swimsuit (really, it's just that fun to make). For her death defying posing on jungle gyms in eye searing print, the swimmie goes to...

Penny Librarian! Girl, that dress is TOO MUCH FUN!!! And too much is never enough.

Whoop! My gals at By Hand London donated four bookshelf worthy patterns (holy shiznet thank you gals!). For her tapalicous Katy & Laney Tap Shorts, the structural and chic Elisalex goes to...

Sew Stylist! I swear, I'd wear those shorts into the ground. ESPECIALLY WITH DEM SHOES.

One of my favorites of the BHL collection-- but let's face it, they're all up there in my book-- the Victoria Blazer, goes to...

Cari Homemaker! Again. Y'all. Really. I want this dress. All of my cocktail glasses want this dress.

For her maiden journey into maxi land (and not near her last, I believe she has half a closet full of full lengths now), the Anna (of which I have infinite versions) goes to...


And lastly in the By Hand London Bounty, the wiggly Charlotte skirt goes to...

The Quirky Peach! Oh please make it with the ruffle, my swirly friend!

And finally, I asked my friends at Mood Fabrics to join the prize party. I've grown so fond of so many people there, it feels like a party every time I walk in the store. Oh yeah, AND THE FABRIC.  With the most votes out of The Family deliberations, a fifty dollar gift card is on its merry way to...


I can't say enough how amazed I am by all of the vibrant, beautiful, out-of-the-comfort-zone creations that came out of this crazy scheme. And how much I learned about the way that I sew through what y'all made! My mind is literally blown. And I haven't had a drop today. Sewcialists, you merry band, and ringleaders Gillian and Lady Katza, I salute you.

I wish I could send each and every one of you somethin' somethin' (and my stressed out family feels the same. Again, thanks for doing the hard part, family).  For now, a virtual clink of my glass and a face splitting grin are what I can give. I hope you are all stitching something INSANE!


Friday Fat Quarter: Zombie A-Peplum-lypse


It's the delectable Amity of Lolita Pattern's turn to turn a bundle of fat quarters into an adult garment...this one comes with an R rating for horror, in the best way. Head on over to Lolita Pattern's for a little Friday Fright-- it's seriously cute!

(And come back this weekend for an update on Oonapalooza prizes-- I've sicced my family on the judging, as any respectable brat should do.) 



This month, the Sewcialists are paying tribute to Everyone Who Is Awesome. AND THAT'S A LOTTA Y'ALL.  To be honest, ninety percent of what I make is inspired by what I see on your sewing tables.  And sometimes, it's inspired by surprises from "strangers" who, in truth, know me better than some IRL civilian friends.  Shhhhhhhhhh, don't tell.

Sarah from Grey's Fabric was charged with sending me a little somethin' somethin' for which to test a pattern by, and when I found out, I didn't hesitate to give her carte blanche.  In fact, my reply to her query: What are you interested in? went exactly like this:

"OOOOO SARAH SARAH SARAH!!!!! WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT!!!!!! i am so excited!!!! THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! the world is your oyster, girl… surprise me!!"


The pattern testing morphed, and turned out to be not perfectly suited to this Crazeballs Kablooey Awesomeness... so it remained folded.  And waited.  And quietly screamed at me.  Daily.  Then I was introduced to some Instagram eye candy, in the form of Tweak Boutique, and HELLO STRANGER, I devoured her feed and immediately had to cut into my spraycans.  The lovely Caroline comes up with not only the most vivid, fun, eyepopping ensembles, she crafts her own jewelry to go with them. I found this out halfway into the bodice, when she asked if I might like a few pieces of bling. She crafted the real Dendrobium orchid ring you see perched on my finger, which is the perfect mate to this dress inspired by her feed!

Oh, Anna. You make me feel so tall. Even in flats! If you haven't deciphered the silhouette, this is indeed another By Hand London Anna. This makes 5 (a few are yet to be blogged).  At this point, I know the pattern so well, I just barrel forward with a smugness borne of previous success.

We all know what goes before a fall.

I was super careful to place a can directed at my face, because, THAT'S AWESOME, but a bit willy nilly on the rest of it. Had some truly upsetting twinning goin' on with the two back panels, which required some flipping and some serious reattaching of limbs. The twinning mistake added about 4 hours of work in a smug free zone. You can spot the extra limb in the shot above, where side meets back.

But the surgery was worth it because, UM.  THERE ARE MIRRORED SPRAY CANS RADIATING DOWN MY BUTT!!!


Entire outfit: supplied, and inspired by, Friends I've Yet To Meet.  OH WAIT!  Did I say yet to meet? I LIE! YOU SIMPLY CANNOT TRUST ME! There's one more gal in there, Miss Lladybird Lauren, who gave me the contrasting vintage zipper yeeeears ago, before we had the fortune to meet IRL (repeatedly:).   I waited all this time to find the perfect mate.

This outfit literally would not have happened without three fantastic women.  And I feel pretty freaking lucky about it. Like I should play the lotto. Thankya, lovely, lovely ladies. I'll be rolling out ensembles inspired by Alla Y'all Amazing People all this month, and linking up to the sources of inspiration... and, as always, looking forward to seeing what you're cranking out! Inspiration Train, departing on the minute!

The Enablers And Inspirators:

Sarah from Grey's Fabric | Instagram | Blog
Caroline from Tweak Boutique | Instagram


McCall's trunk show 'n tell (and touch)

When a New Yorker is told she can put her purse down and release the burden of eight hours, sans fear, she does it, with wild abandon, leaving her camera inside said purse.  BAD BLOGGER.


However, Art Director Richard Mo (who wore a constant warm smile) was kind enough to share these shots of this July's trunk show/soiree at McCall's Patterns.  Quoth Ruggy: you always know where the camera is.  Oh, do I Ruggy?  

DO I??

I've been told my facial expressions can achieve contortionist proportions, but I'm still surprised-- and a little scared-- whenever presented with an extra special moment.  I'm sure Cindy was too.  And that's my fun face.

This is what actual people having fun at a party look like.  Study, I shall.

Although McCall's is a larger operation than your single-lady-drafting-patterns, it's way smaller than I thought it would be, with most of the work done on premises.  I say "most" because I'm assuming the full on printing of the patterns is done elsewhere... but I could be wrong. (I may have also left my brain in my purse.)  The photo shoots, pattern drafting, sample making, sketching, instruction writing, proofing, the what-have-you... that's all done in house.  

The stash especially was NY Studio Apartment sized, compared to what I had in my mind.  Here's Peter & Penny (Fabric Editor, whose dress I wanted to rip off her breezy form) at one end of the room, and Claudine & Carolyn at the other...


In house studio!  Now that's an appropriate size!  The wall of shoes is equal to the stash, yo.

When I say In House, I mean In Home.  The people behind all of it were indeed very much like a family welcoming guests to their abode, grabbing the baton when questions were asked, ribbing each other... I got the sense that it was a very happy tribe.  The atmosphere was a good air to be in.  Many of us eyed the empty sewing tables with undisguised greed, like a guest bedroom begging for an extended stay.  


Although, if I were invited in, I think I'd be the problem child of the troop, raiding siblings closets and prancing about in whatever I could stick my arms into.  

Here is how you are supposed to behave when offered sample garments. Calm, serene Claudine.  Study, I shall.

A bit more ravenous, Clio, Carolyn and Olgalyn peruse the houndstooth... 

And full on brat.

Luckily Suzanne and Amanda were there to hide me.  Actually, James, the extremely fashionable Fashion Editor in vivid stripes below, was happy to enable my brattiness, bringing out the infamous yo-yo wrap upon request, and then this frilly number.  This felt like you were putting the party on.  Literally on. 

James quipped that whoever could button up this Rucci coat could take it home. Dangerous joke. Mais, no winner there on the size negative 1,000 (and yes I tried).  If memory serves, that was a $10,000ish coat, direct from Rucci, photographed on the pattern envelope, and just a visiting garment for the pattern envelope shoot. (All explained much better here.) 

Hey this is cool!  Ralph Rucci, right? He wanted the public to be able to afford his garments, you know, like the $10,000ish coat previously mentioned, so he approached McCall's.  We saw the actual pattern pieces direct from Rucci, which are used for the Vogue patterns.  INSTANT FAN OF RALPH RUCCI.  I will have that coat in neoprene, I will.

Two lovely ladies show us the process: the delicious Melissa (Designer, wearing one of her latest releases) and Kathy (Vogue Pattern Mag's Editor and Resident Radiator of Warmth)

Of course I went down a Big 4 rabbit hole after the party, as part of our goodie bag included our choice of a pattern. No question, I'm going the Rucci route at some point on a fall pattern haul, but for this pick I think I'll go vintage...  

decisions, decisions...clockwise: V8999, B5603, B5813, V8874 and option B of B5813

Wonderful hosts, wonderful night.  And I heard murmurings that they'll be bringing these shindigs on the road when they can, so keep an eye out... and an arm ready for some impromptu closet raiding...